There are countless songwriters whose writings, voices and visions have changed my life in some way. Some leave a momentary mark, while others continually offer guidance, support or empathy, whenever I need it. Many spring to mind: Jeff Tweedy, Bruce Springsteen, Gary Louris, Matthew Ryan, Damien Jurado, Neil Young, Elliott Smith, Richard Buckner, Lucinda Williams. All of these writers, along with tens of others have stood by my side many times througout the years.

Whenever I think about the greatest songwriters/voices of the past decade or two, one of the first to come to mind is a virtually-unknown musical genius from North Carolina named Kenny Roby. Many years ago it was Roby's band 6 String Drag that revealed to me that straightforward music can at times be the best music. No frills. Simple songwriting, a charging guitar and seeping passion. That was Kenny Roby's 6 String Drag. They were shortlived, but Kenny charged on. I've heard numerous times that he's considered bailing on making music. But he always comes back. And I for one, thank god for that. Since the Drag's demise, Kenny's released two fanatastic records, his latest, "Rather Not Know", pays homage to his late father. However, instead of a record drowning in sorrow (which would certainly be understandable), Roby compliments the heartbreaking tunes with songs ranging from an overweight, yet determined woman named Thelma ("Not Gonna Give Up") to traditional downhome numbers like "I Need a Train".

There are many great songwriters out there, but as far as the unsung heroes go, there are few as talented and heartfelt as North Carolina's Kenny Roby.

A Tale of Two Cities

Tomorrow afternoon I return to NYC for the first time since June (and only the third time since moving to the Bay Area in January). This is the first time that I am truly excited to return home. Having spent the last 11 months living in Sunnyvale, CA, I am desperate for big city spirit. Once I return next week I will be only a few weeks shy of my pending move to the big local city, San Francisco. Now that I'm working up in SF, I can honestly say that the city has started to grow on me considerably. NYC was always a bit too much for me; SF seems like it might be just right. Nevertheless, tomorrow I return home to the city that'll never leave me.

np Alejandro Escovdeo/Velvet Guitar

Born To Run 30th Anniversary

I think it's safe to say that this record changed my life. Sure, peoople throw such statements out too easily, but for me, I truly believe it's the case. I vividly recall hearing "Backstreets", "Night", "Jungleland" and the five remaining tracks oozing through the walls of my Ramsey, New Jersey bedroom as a child. Although my father's late-parties often left me red-eyed and blue, the wail of "Born To Run" always gave me comfort. Whether it be as guests arrived or as the booze and drugs had fueled the hangers-on at 5am, "Born To Run" often accompanied the madness downstairs.

Now at the age of 32 I find myself working in the music business and fueled not by the booze and drugs but by the music. Springsteen led me to Neil Young which brought me to Uncle Tupelo which guided me to Damien Jurado and Elliott Smith. For over twenty years music has been the cornerstone of my life. And how I got here can be attributed to those late, sweltering nights in Northern New Jersey. In the deep heart of the night, it was "Born To Run" that gave me hope. And nothing's changed.